The power of light and the sham of CFLs

Light has always fascinated and delighted me. I love to gaze at sun-light, moon-light, and star-light. And it’s always interesting to see the endless shades of color produced by the interplay  of those space bodies and the atmosphere. For indoor lighting, I enjoy playing with colored bulbs, string lights, incandescent bulbs- with varying types of shades to blunt or direct the light- and candles to create the   ambience that I am looking for.

The garish and headache-inducing neon lights of big cities are something I find distasteful but tolerable in small doses.  However, the recent development, introduction, sale and forced acceptance of compact fluorescent bulbs, or CFLs,  has massively degraded our world of light. These fluorescent lights now illuminate our  commons, our streets, public buildings, libraries, schools, offices and homes.


Under the guise of ‘environmentalism’ and ‘going green’, governments around the world, as well as trans-governmental bodies such as the EU, have not only encouraged the transition to CFLs, but have actually mandated them, going so far as to ban the manufacture, importation and sale of incandescent bulbs.

CFLs suck. Any way you look at them, they are deficient and inferior to the safe, reliable and inexpensive incandescent bulbs developed over a hundred years ago by Thomas Edison’s team of scientists.

Incandescent Light Bulb

They cost more- much more. The initial cost at the cash register is 4 to 5x what an old style bulb costs, but the so-called experts tell people not to sweat it, because these magical lights will recoup your costs in energy savings. This is bogus science and the studies they came up with to ‘prove’ this were based on the bulbs operating at a steady state temperature of 105 degrees, which actually never happens. Furthermore, they take much more energy to produce than standard bulbs.



They are dangerous. Whereas old incandescent bulbs are biologically inert and safe to dispose of, CFLs contain mercury, one of the most dangerous substances known to human health, especially in regards to its effects on the brain. Mercury is a known neurotoxin. We have finally gotten rid of mercury thermometers in our hospitals and homes, but now we are introducing vast quantities of mercury into the environment through the use of these bulbs!! And not just mercury liquid, but mercury vapor  which is  even more dangerous as it can be easily inhaled after a bulb breaks. Whether these bulbs break in someone’s home and contaminate the air, or end up in a landfill and contaminate our groundwater, the end result is a further poisoning of our environment.


efficient incandescent

CFLs are dangerous in other ways. They emit high levels of UVC radiation which penetrate the glass from the inner bulb into the space around it, affecting users close by and increasing their chances for developing skin cancer and eye problems. Also, CFLs emit elevated levels of blue wavelength light, thereby ‘fooling’ our brain and pineal gland to think that it is still daylight and hence to continue producing serotonin and delay producing melatonin, our nighttime sleep hormone and free-radical killing ally.

Once again, we see how governments can so easily fool the public with a bit of sham science (with the requisite ‘experts’ in white coats) a massive advertising and propaganda campaign and a bit of environmental ‘guilt’ thrown in for good measure. The public willingly  adopts a new technology to replace the old, which wasn’t broken to begin with, at a larger cost to our health and the environment.  This is criminal activity and the fact that so few environmentalists and organizations have been silent on this issue speaks volumes about where their priorities are.



Having lived in a number of countries over the last 3 years which have completed the transition to CFLs, I have seen the future, and it’s ugly. Where I live now in Southeast Asia, incandescents can only be found in a few random lighting specialty shops around the city. An employee has to reach under the counter to pull out a dusty bulb which he happily sells to oddballs like myself to get rid of them. The situation is now the same in South America.

If you live in a house that was built ten years ago, you are  lucky as incandescents can still be used in the light sockets. However, new buildings and houses are constructed with light fixtures which can only accommodate the narrower profile of a CFL. Changing back to an old bulb will be impossible.



I’m continually amazed at the poor quality of indoor light which societies now take for granted. The warm, yellow light of incandescents is in stark contrast to the cold, blue light of CFLs , which not only emit dangerous light, but  also emit ugly light. The light cast off by these CFLs does  an  awful job of illuminating a space. Notice how quickly light dissipates from even a high-powered CFL. When they are mounted high up on a ceiling or wall, as they often are, very little light reaches down near ground level where people read and converse.

While one can stare without difficulty at an incandescent, just looking for a few short seconds at a CFL hurts the eyes. No wonder I never see anyone reading under a CFL bulb. The light doesn’t  ‘encourage’ that type of behavior, and maybe that’s the plan.


I used to believe that artists and spiritual seekers would be the ones to notice the horrible effects of these bulbs and lead the fight against them. Sensitive souls have a greater awareness of light, color, nuance, and shade, right? A few years ago I traveled to Brazil and was fortunate to be able to spend a few days in Olinda, a small city north of Recife renowned for its artistic culture and abundance of art galleries.  As I leisurely walked along the cobblestoned streets peeking inside the art galleries, all the artists hard at work on their paintings were sitting under a CFL bulb. So much for artists…. And the monks and priests? Spend an evening in Asia looking around the various temples and pagodas to see how much they care about natural light. Many pagodas are now covered in gaudy neon light. If you drive by it quickly, you might think you are looking at a discotheque.



Let’s also not forget how ugly CFLs are even when not turned on. Their antennae like shape suggest that they are perhaps receiving something from the atmosphere of which we are not aware. And cleaning the dust off of them? Forget it. Bring along a box of q tips and a lot of patience.

With all the massive environmental problems facing our planet, governments never can agree on any comprehensive  plan for nuclear waste,  forest destruction, plastic in the oceans or anything else for that matter. But somehow, nations have all agreed that throwing away our old light bulbs and adopting CFLs will be an environmental boon with no adverse effects?  Something doesn’t smell right here. Stock up on your old Edison bulbs and fight this big brother nonsense.


Here we go again: olympic financial disaster in Brazil

As reports continue to arrive about the ever-expanding costs of the upcoming 2016 Olympics in Brazil, one has to wonder how long this farce can go on. When will governments learn that hosting these games, and other similar large scale sporting events such as the World Cup, is not worth it? Ever since the disastrous 1976 summer Olympics in Montreal, the Olympics have proved more often than not to be a boondoggle for host countries  and have created  lasting headaches for them, including long term debt.

The Montreal games left the city with a $1.6 billion debt which it could not pay off for 30 years. The Olympic stadium was plagued with problems throughout its life and now, after the sale of the professional baseball team to Washington D.C., sits empty and unused.



Let’s look at some other recent Olympic games. The 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, Spain cost $11.4 billion and had a cost overrun of 417 percent. The 2000 games in Sydney cost $6.5 billion, created no new surge of international tourists, and showed little or no long term benefit to citizens of that beautiful city.


Greece Olympics Abandoned Venues


The 2004 Olympics in Athens were fun to watch, but the effect of the games on Greece’s financial condition was disastrous. Today, just ten years after the games, Greece continues to be mired in severe depression. The cost of the games doubled from initial budgets and projections, and final costs ranged from $11 billion to over $32 billion, depending on whose figures you believe. Security alone cost the country $1.2 billion, with 70,000 police roaming the venues and the skies above the city of Athens. Today, most of the facilities built solely for the games sit either completely abandoned or underutilized and in disrepair.

The 2008 games in Beijing cost somewhere around $40 billion. This was a new record, far exceeding any previous games. The famous ‘Birds Nest’ stadium now sits unused for most of the year. The Chinese government claims they ‘only’ relocated 6,000 residents for Olympic construction projects, though independent research organizations say that number is closer to 1.5 million.

The original projections for the London games of 2012 were in the neighborhood of $4 billion. The final cost was between $15 billion and $19 billion, depending on the source. The recent winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia cost the Russian government at least $50 billion, with some estimates going as high as $66.7 billion.

The final costs are always difficult to calculate, as governments often fudge the numbers, as all governments are wont to do. Additionally, it becomes difficult to establish what to classify as strictly a cost item for the games(operating cost)  as opposed to necessary infrastructure projects undertaken to prepare the city for the influx of hundreds of thousands of visitors (capital costs) . These large infrastructure improvements are not typically included in the final tally of the games, but their costs often make the final expense  of the games balloon extravagantly. New airports, new terminals, new subways, trains, roadways and sidewalks do not come cheap.

Over the last 50 years, host cities for the Olympics have averaged cost overruns of 179 percent, or $5.7 billion. So, how’s it looking for Brazil in 2016? It’s amazing to me that Brazil would attempt to host the World Cup and the Olympics within 2 years. Just hosting one of these events is a mighty logistical and financial challenge, especially for a country like Brazil which has only recently become a major economic power. As the country scrambles to get ready for the start of the Cup this summer, things are not looking good.



The country erupted into protests last year, with millions in the streets protesting the extravagant money being spent on these mega events/spectacles while the masses of Brazil continue to grapple with subpar housing, medical care, and public transportation. According to some recent figures I read, Brazil is attempting to build 12 new stadiums, overhaul its transportation infrastructure, expand 12 airports and build new ports. Whether all, or even most, of these projects will be completed before the opening ceremonies in 2014 and 2016 is very much an open question. The final tab for capital expenditure in public works could exceed $1 trillion.

Meanwhile, the government of Brazil, taking a cue from their Chinese autocratic brethren, are busily bulldozing the houses of people who are inconveniently located in  a site which is to be developed for the games. According to recent figures, 1.5 million persons are scheduled to be relocated.



But hey, uprooting communities, bulldozing houses, fleecing the government on no-bid contracts, constructing white elephant stadiums, and bankrupting entire economies all goes with the territory when we are talking about the Olympics. Thank goodness the Brazilian people have woken up and are protesting this gargantuan scam. They understand that they will receive no benefit from all this chaotic spending and building. Governments always claim that the games will bring ‘prestige’ and ‘beneficial publicity’ to the host country and city. I’m sure the average worker on the street who can’t even afford to buy a ticket to see an Olympic event is impressed with such high sounding talk.

I love the idea of the Olympics, but it has now morphed into a monster. These wholly corporate owned extravaganzas are just a place for multi-nationals to sell advertising and to squeeze money from corrupt  local politicians. Why does it cost $40 billion to gather some athletes together to see who can run the fastest, jump the highest and leap the furthest?








Anonymous sources and ‘Experts’

Back in the 1980s when I was in journalism school, we were taught that there were rules and limits to using anonymous sources. If you wished to use an anonymous source in your story, you had to be able to justify the need for it to your editors. What was so sensitive about this topic that your source needed to not be identified? While anonymity might be occasionally necessary, we were reminded that the use of anonymous sources, especially on a regular basis,  undermined the credibility of the writer and  created doubt in the readers’ minds.

How times have changed. With the exception of the White House press briefing, and a few other official conferences where a spokesperson will give an official statement, information is now given piecemeal through leaks and ‘sources.’ Almost all political writing done now in the mainstream media relies exclusively on anonymous sources. The phrase, ‘according to a source’ has become so commonplace, it is not ever questioned. ‘According to a high-level source’ is even more common. Pick up The Washington Post  or New York Times  and read a front page story on some important government issue, and you will  read 30 or 40 paragraphs without a single named source. What’s more, no apology or explanation is given for why nobody wants to speak on the record. And this goes for the seemingly non-controversial issues as well as the scandals. Nobody speaks on record anymore. It’s become an accepted, and acceptable, cozy little routine  between the government and these news organizations whereby all news is disseminated through leaks and anonymous sources. It is, for all thinking persons, a joke. Who would ever believe a word these people say? ‘

Soon after the widespread use of anonymous sources became prevalent in the national media, another phenomenon started to become apparent: the rise of the experts. Now, there is nothing wrong with consulting someone who has expertise in the field about which you writing. But what we witness today in the mainstream media has nothing to do with educating people by bringing in academics and scientists with expertise. No. This is all about lazy reporting and propaganda.

Most news organizations, whether in print, radio, or television,  pay their reporters very little money. In fact, many reporters could earn as much money working at McDonalds. Hence, they have little motivation to do serious research and collect data. The easy and efficient way to do a story is to simply pick up the phone, schedule an interview with someone whom they can refer to as  an ‘expert’, collect a few quotes, and write the story. The reporter is happy, the editor is happy, nobody questions anything and the machine rolls on.


The other use of these so-called ‘experts’ is far more sinister than simple reporter laziness and organizational penny pinching. These academic and corporate whores are brought onto a news program or quoted in stories  to lend credence to  whatever the parent company is trying to sell, whether it is man-made global warming, the wonderful benefits of flouride in the water supply, or the safety of GMOs. Whenever you see a news program bring on an ‘expert’, run for the hills. You KNOW you are being sold something. I knew this trend was heading for a nadir when I turned on the television one day many years ago to see an interview with someone who called himself ‘a relationship expert.’ I thought, “you must be kidding.” Does one go to Harvard these days to get a degree in ‘relationships.’ ?? What a joke. And the grinning talking heads  just sat there and chatted with this dweeb with straight faces.

The GMO- defending Dr. Oz


Finally, the real danger in constantly bringing on someone who claims  expertise for every news story is that this practice very subtly inculcates in the viewer’s mind that he is incapable of understanding anything that is being discussed about the world. Every subject, whether it relates to health, the environment, politics, science, relationships, or sports, requires someone in a suit to explain things to the dumb sheep. It’s insulting. Everything must be watered down and broken into digestible bite-sized pieces for the consumption of the ever passive consumer.  Let’s dump the experts, once and for all.


Cell Phone Madness

Most people don’t want to talk about the negative aspects of cell phones. Now that the majority of people have a smart phone and have integrated this technology into every aspect of their life, they prefer to put any lingering qualms about them into a small compartment in the back of their brain and forget about it. In this respect, cell phones and smart phones are not any different from all the other technologies that have so radically altered human societies over the past century and a half. Whether it’s the automobile, telephone, radio, television, or computer, the shadow side of these technologies-including their environmental, biological , and social costs-   is shunted aside in the race to adopt the ‘new’ and embrace ‘progress.’



Not since the advent of television has any new technology done more to destroy interpersonal communication and dumb down the populace as the cell phone. From couples no longer even bothering to talk to each other at restaurants, to parents ignoring their children at the dinner table while answering  emails , to friends interrupting each other to check a text, to lovers answering text messages  while having sex, the examples are legion.

Beyond the social and intellectual costs of our cell phone mad world, there are very real and increasing quantifiable health costs. Again, people choose not to look at this, thinking that the health effects  will be something they can deal with ‘in the future’, and that , besides, even if there are dangers, having a smart phone is too important to give up, whatever the costs.



Travel  through any major city today and observe the skyline and what is the overwhelming dominant feature that one sees? Cell phone towers- thousands of them. Cell phone mania has swept the world and proliferation of these towers is seen in every city in South America, North America, Asia, and Europe. Increasingly, they are dotting the rural landscape as well. Formerly untouched and pristine mountaintops and hillsides are now sites for  huge cell phone towers, forever blighting the once beautiful vistas of the countryside in places like Ecuador, for example.

In the Southeast Asian city where I live, thousands of cell towers dot the skyline, with an average of at least one every other block. Completely unregulated, the cell companies erect them as fast as they can, renting cheap space on top of peoples’ homes, hotels, commercial businesses, churches and schools. The people who live and work in these buildings take the easy money from the cellular carriers and willfully ignore the potentially serious health consequences from living under one of these towers. Looking out from my bedroom window, I count four towers which are close enough for me to throw a stone at.

cell tower, Phnom Penh, Cambodia


A number of countries, mostly in Europe, recognizing the inherent dangers in wifi, have taken steps to ban wifi in schools and severely limit the installation of towers nearby. Here in Asia, governments have been slower to recognize the danger , and schools are rushing to install wifi. I once stood in the middle of a school courtyard and counted 3 towers on adjacent blocks.

Modern humans are now living in an ocean of electromagnetic radiation (EMR). Cell phone radiation is one form of electromagnetic radiation. For anyone who wishes to learn how cell phones were first allowed into the consumer market, it is worth reading the story online. Basically, the manufacturers presented studies to the government authorities stating that, because there were no thermal (heating) effects from the microwaves , there could therefore be no adverse biological effects. The government accepted the flawed argument, gave the green light, and the cell phone explosion was upon us.

Typical view looking across the skyline, showing 3 towers, Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam


Cell phone radiation can’t be seen, felt, touched, heard or sensed, and so most people assume that it’s harmless. However, there are indeed severe biological consequences. One of the many adverse effects of EMR is on the production of melatonin. Studies have shown that EMR from cell phones inhibits the production of melatonin from the pineal gland in the brain. Melatonin regulates the sleep cycle and is also responsible for cellular rejuvenation and repair during the deep REM sleep between 1am and 4am.

Some other adverse effects include: increased chance of developing brain cancer, leakage of the blood-brain barrier, decreased sperm count in men, increased estrogen levels (and hence, hormonal balance disruption) , fatigue, depression, and headaches.

When I point the cell towers and ask my students, “What are those?” , they are never able to tell me. Nobody had ever pointed them out before, and they consider them part of the natural landscape now, just like chemtrails in the skies. Girls and young women, from 10 to 40 -years- old, now keep their charged and wifi- enabled smart phones wedged tightly into the front pocket of their bluejeans, snug against their reproductive organs. I inform them that if they someday want to have healthy babies, they might want to store their phone elsewhere. That usually gets their attention.




Abused words: consensus, anarchy, genocide, contractor, home

George Orwell warned humanity in his novel 1984 that totalitarian governments of the future would mangle language to such an extent that the original meanings of words would become lost as history was rewritten, and words would at times even come to connote the exact opposite of their original meaning.


Pick up any random copy of a business press release, a mainstream newspaper,  mass market magazine, or a government document, and you will be confronted with this mangling of language on a daily basis. The examples could fill an entire book, but here are some of the most egregious:

1) consensus

There are instances when dictionaries cause more confusion than clarity. Such is the case with ‘consensus.’ Most dictionaries define it as general agreement. But what the heck does the word ‘general’ mean in the definition? That’s open to interpretation. One dictionary says that it is an agreement shared by a majority while another says that it is an agreement shared by ALL. So, are we to say that consensus means 51% or greater, or does it mean 100% agreement?  Most writers, reporters and bloggers today use it to mean a majority but when I was living in communities we always understood the word to mean agreement by everybody, no exceptions. Also, the phrases ‘growing consensus’ and ‘general consensus’  are meaningless. Authors, speakers and propagandists who attempt to gain traction for a theory or idea that they are trying to sell often use this word  in an argumentum ad populum.  This type of argument says ‘the majority believe it, so it must be true.’ Furthermore, it sounds more official and learned to say ‘there is a growing consensus’ than to say, ‘a majority of people believe…’

2) anarchy

Leo Tolstoy


In my lifetime, no word has been more vilified and shredded than ‘anarchy.’ The word traces its roots back to ancient Greek.  ‘An’  means  without and ‘arkhos’   or ‘archon’ means ruler. So, anarchy means without rulers or without government. An anarchist is someone who doesn’t believe in government. Or, to put it in a more active form, an anarchist is someone who believes in ‘self-rule.’ Anarchism refers to the political theory while anarchy refers to the actual practice.

Over the centuries,  further definitions were added on to the original. The second, third and fourth entries in dictionaries  gave ‘disorder, chaos, confusion,’ and other scary words to associate with ‘no government.’

In the years that I have been reading and studying the media, mostly in the USA, I have NEVER seen anarchy used in any context but chaos, confusion, and violence.  As soon as a riot breaks out somewhere, either as a result of a natural disaster or economic conditions , you can bet your life savings that a government spokesperson and television  announcer will proclaim that there is a great danger of ‘anarchy.’

This is a pretty sad state of affairs, and it is nothing more than conditioning and programming of the masses. Governments have always been fearful of the idea of anarchy and have always tried to conflate anarchy and chaos. There was once a time, even in the USA, not too long ago when anarchy and anarchism were talked about seriously. Those days are long gone, and now we can only watch the spectacle of talking heads on television frothing at the mouth and shouting ‘anarchy!’


3) genocide

Few words in the English language can arouse  emotion so quickly as ‘genocide.’ The word came into popular usage after World War II. Dictionaries, again,  can steer  us off course. Most state that it is ‘the extermination of a national, racial, ethnic, or cultural group.’  Does ‘extermination’ mean 100% of those members, a majority,  or just a large number? The word has become so politicized now, and is such a favorite of dictators, propagandists, and speechwriters, that anytime a few thousand, hundred or dozen get killed- from a population of millions- someone is screaming ‘genocide.’ Not only is this not accurate and purposefully inflammatory, but it degrades the memory of groups and tribes who truly have been exterminated.  Certainly, when large numbers of people are killed, we should mourn them, but rarely does the killing  warrant the use of the word ‘genocide.’ Even many otherwise excellent and insightful political writers whom I read regularly abuse this word.

4) contractor

Welcome to the USA, post 9/11! Our government ‘leaders’ have dropped all pretense and shame, and now proudly proclaim WAR IS PEACE, FREEDOM  IS SLAVERY, and IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH. Such is the mentality of government warmongers and war profiteers that mercenaries are now called by the politically neutral and benign word  ‘contractors.’ Even the word ‘mercenary’ does not truly do justice to the reality of  murderers- for hire. Nowadays, our mainstream media blithely and sickeningly will only use contractor when talking about the thousands of Blackwater hit-men roaming the mountains of Afghanistan and the streets of Iraq. One can imagine if a reporter from the New York Times were to attempt to write ‘mercenary.’ He would quickly be reprimanded and reminded that news organizations don’t use that language anymore. The CIA says so.


5) home

I’ve often wondered how and why the word ‘house’ has almost completely disappeared from the English lexicon. As George Carlin so eloquently said, a home can be anywhere -the street, your friends couch, the road- and is more likened to a state of mind than a physical, tangible object. Most people are familiar with the idiom, “Home is where the heart is.” A house is a building,  a dwelling that is usually built by a corporation and meant to be sold to a family or individual so that one day they can call it a home. These days, many people don’t even want to do that; they simply buy it as in ‘investment’, a profit making opportunity.

Pick up a newspaper, magazine, pamphlet, hand-out, or book and try to find the word house these days. It is almost impossible to find. Marketers and PR hacks  discovered way back in the days of Edward Bernays that people resonated with the word home , much more than house . You are far more likely to put down a lot of money to buy a home than you are to buy a house. It all comes down to marketing.

News reporters have been sucked up into this nonsense. How many times have we seen a helicopter flying high over a devastated region after a tornado or hurricane and the reporter looks below at the shattered structures and houses and says, “There are so many destroyed homes…” Selling disaster for ratings.







How to read (and understand) the corporate press. Case study: Serbia

If you walk by a newsstand and pick up a magazine like  Businessweek or a newspaper like the Wall Street Journal, you know that you will be reading ‘the news’ from the perspective of large business interests, and the stories will be slanted to fit into their perspective and worldview. But what about mainstream newspapers and news organizations, such as BBC, Agence France-Presse, AP, Al-Jazeera, The New York Times  and all the rest? Are we getting ‘objective’ reporting about news, especially economic news, which gives us a clear understand of micro and macro economic conditions? No, of course not. All of the news organizations listed are themselves huge corporations, publicly traded on Wall Street, and have boards of directors who themselves sit on other companies’ boards.

What’s humorous to observe and study is the language that reporters for these companies use when reporting on political and economic issues facing countries. The language is carefully crafted to appear as neutral, independent , and objective when in reality it is nothing of the sort.

Let’s take a recent article from Agence France-Presse about recent elections in Serbia. AFP refers to Aleksandar Vucic , the Deputy Prime Minister as a former ‘ultra nationalist hawk.’ This is simple code language, used often in the business press, to refer to a leader who doesn’t ‘play ball’ with the international money lenders and tries to keep his country independent, strong, and sovereign. The big corporations and banks have no use for countries like that. They want weak, impotent countries with puppet dictators whom they can easily control.

Now, however, Vucic is no longer a ‘a nationalist hawk’ who is against joining the EU. He has ‘reformed’ himself and is a new man! Now, he is happily steering Serbia into full EU membership and thus subjugating a once proud and independent country to rule by a bunch of European bureaucrats residing in Brussels. He will no doubt be receiving heaps of praise from media such as AFP.



The article goes on. The reporter informs the readers that Serbia ‘has often been seen as a defiant international pariah since playing a central role in the Balkan wars of the 1990s.’  I wish I had a nickel for every time an organization like AFP or the New York Times referred to Serbia as a ‘pariah.’ In fact, Serbia’s leaders did what any country’s leaders do when attacked by foreign forces: fight back and work to protect their people and borders. Serbia’s real crime was that it was stubbornly independent and didn’t want to trade in its sovereignty for the chance to join the EU. But the lazy writer for AFP is counting on his readers not knowing history or understanding the language he is using.


In the following paragraph, this reporter gives a couple of statistics detailing Serbia’s current economic troubles- which of course were the result of its being a pariah and not playing ball with Brussels, the IMF, World Bank and Goldman Sachs- and then gives the solution. The reporter writes: “The next government will have to focus on reforming antiquated labor laws and cutting down on bureaucracy, analysts say.”



This is classic IMF/Wall Street lingo, understood perfectly well by those in the upper echelons of the business class, but little understood by the average reader. First of all, who are the ‘analysts’ the reporter writes of? Notice he doesn’t bother to name his sources. He doesn’t need to. No doubt these so-called ‘analysts’ work for Wall Street. He also cleverly phrases it in a one-sided manner, to give the impression that there is no debate on this now, that it’s a foregone conclusion what the new administration in Belgrade must do. ‘Antiquated labor laws’ is phrase that business writers love to hurl at governments , especially of countries like France which have strong laws on the books to protect their workers from amoral and rapacious corporations. ‘Cutting down on bureaucracy’ is another timeworn and favorite phrase of the corporate press. They want governments to gut all the departments which are in place to protect workers, children and families so that the corporations can have free reign to do as they please, i.e. extract, pollute, and exploit.

The nameless reporter plows ahead in the next paragraph. “The new government will also have to push through a stringent austerity package, including the privatisation of 170 state-owned companies, along with subsidy cuts and tax increases.”

Again, where is the reporter getting this information from? It looks as though he has the IMF/World Bank loan form right in from of him. Serbia, he is telling us, will have to drink the same bitter medicine that Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Greece and others have drunk. The banks and large trans-nationals will come in to rape the country of its natural resources, buy all the state companies for pennies on the dollar and subject its population to years, possibly decades , of imposed poverty and disease. Again, it’s presented as if this is the only viable solution, and a done deal. The only thing left is to sign on the dotted line. The same thing will happen in Ukraine, and all the articles about that country will sound just like this one.

‘Austerity’ and ‘privatisation’ mean rape and pillage. But the business press always prefers to use polite language, so you must learn how to translate.


Why aren’t people having babies? The Demographic Collapse

The demographic crisis currently unfolding around the world is not receiving the media scrutiny that it deserves. The most severe manifestations of this crisis can be seen in Southern and Eastern Europe, East Asia, and North America, but the phenomenon of plummeting birth rates can be observed in almost every area of the world.


Perhaps the reason for this lack of media coverage is our longstanding concern with overpopulation which has been ongoing since the time of Malthus and has gotten increasing media attention every time earth’s population adds another billion.

A number of recent articles that I came across detailing Japan’s demographic catastrophe and the unfolding situation in Eastern Europe kindled my interest. As I delved into the demographic statistics of the countries afflicted most severely with these problems, I was shocked at what I read.

Let’s begin with Southern Europe. Italy’s total fertility rate (TFR) fell below the replacement level of 2.1 back in 1977, dipping below 1.2 in the mid 1990s.  From 1975 until 2012, Italy added a measly 4 million people to her total population. Beginning in 1993, the country began to experience a yearly net loss in population, with more people dying than being born. Except for 2004 and 2006, Italy has lost somewhere between 2,000 and 46,000 people per year.



Serbia, the land of my ancestors, is experiencing an acute demographic crisis. Its TFR fell below 2 in 1991 and has been hovering around 1.4 for the last ten years.  Beginning in 1992, it began to lose population.  For the last ten years, it has averaged a net loss of 34,000 people per year. This is not an insignificant number for a country with a total population of only 7.1 million people.

The population of Greece, that ancient and beautiful land, stopped growing in the early 1980s. Its TFR dropped below the replacement level in 1983 and went quickly downhill from there. It has bottomed out (for now) around 1.4. Since 1996, half of the years have seen a net population decrease. With its recent economic troubles, Greece will not be in any position to help out its young, struggling families.

In Eastern Europe, the situation is even worse. Romania’s TFR slipped to 1.83 in 1990 and since then has hovered between 1.2 and 1.3. The country began to lose population in 1992. Since that year, Romania has lost over 795,000 people, with an average yearly loss of 36,000 people.

Bulgaria’s TFR fell to 1.96 in 1987. It got as low as 1.09 in 1997 before rebounding slightly and now has stabilized for the moment around 1.5 Bulgaria has had a net population loss every year since 1990 and now has 839,000 fewer people than it did then. Average annual population loss: 36,000.

Hungary last had a TFR of 2 or greater in 1979.  For the past seventeen years, its TFR has failed to rise above 1.3.  It started to lose population in 1981 and has had more deaths than births every year since then. Its total loss since then numbers over 868,000 people with an average annual loss of 26,000.



The Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia have equally grim statistics. Since 1990, Latvia’s couples have been failing to reproduce themselves and its TFR dipped as low as 1.1 in 1997 and 1998. It has lost between 8,000 and 17,000 people per year since 1991, in a country of only 2 million. The figures for Estonia and Lithuania are comparable.

Russia’s demographic collapse ,which began after the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991,  received some press coverage, but looking back at the horrifying statistics from those years still gives pause. Russia suffered a double whammy: Not only did its birth rate decline quickly, but its death rate skyrocketed at the same time, resulting in massive yearly net population losses. From 1992 until 2006, Russia was losing around 800,000 (!!) people per year. Since 2007, thanks to an improving economic outlook and reforms put in place by Vladimir Putin, the birth rate has started to slowly climb back up and the death rate has begun to slowly decrease. In 2012, its annual loss was only 2,500 people, and last year Russia actually had a population gain for the first time in over 20 years.


Germany is another interesting country to examine. It has not had a TFR above 2 since 1971 and continues to have one of the lowest birth rates in the world, averaging between 1.2 and 1.4 for the last twenty years. It has had more deaths than births every year since 1972 and since 2002 has averaged 150,000 excess deaths per year. The only thing saving Germany from demographic collapse is massive immigration from Eastern and Southern Europe.

These statistics just scratch the surface of this problem. We could discuss the emigration patterns taking place around Europe and the world, which in some cases exacerbate and in other case alleviate the aforementioned issues.  We could talk about the underlying causes for couples choosing not to have large families, or any children at all. We might ask what will be the long term consequences for these nations which are losing people so quickly. We could take a look at Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan and other places where there is an acute child shortage as well.

This phenomenon is real, it appears it is here to stay, and it is spreading. Save for Sub-Saharan Africa, couples- both married and unmarried- are failing to reproduce themselves and the long and short term consequences for humanity are going to be huge. Nation-states will collapse, national boundaries will be redrawn and the global balance of power will continue to shift.

Left-wing Gatekeepers: Maddow, Maher, Cockburn, Stewart, McKenna

The so-called ‘Left’ in America is populated with numerous gatekeepers. In a previous piece, I mentioned three of the most prominent: Noam Chomsky, Amy Goodman, and Michael Moore.  Let’s look at a few more.

1) Rachel Maddow.

She’s young, she’s hip, she’s smart, she’s liberal, and… she’s a lesbian. (cool!) She criticizes the government, especially those in government who are on the Republican team.  She is anti-war and anti-imperialism. Not surprisingly, she has attracted a following of young, liberal, urban hipster types with a political bent.

She graduated from Stanford University, the training ground for so many of America’s cold warriors and military-industrial-media-financial elite. From there, she was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship and went on to obtain a PhD from Oxford. The people who award Rhodes Scholarships do not like to waste their money, and they bring in young people who are smart and willing to be groomed to be future leaders. If you are fundamentally opposed to the way the world is currently organized and structured, you will not be awarded things like Rhodes Scholarships and Oxford PhDs. Just something to keep in mind when judging people like Maddow.



Most of what she says about government malfeasance stands up  well. But, when it comes to the ultimate litmus test for gatekeepers- 9/11- , Maddow shows who she is really working for. Addressing the issue, she practically hyperventilated, and went off on – you guessed it- ‘conspiracy theorists.’ What’s wrong with those people anyway, she asked. Don’t they have anything better to do with their time? Those conspiracy people obviously have some misplaced wiring in their brain. The rant went on and on as she bashed Alex Jones and others.  People just shouldn’t question government lies about 9/11. Question government about everything else, but for the major event of the last 20 years… let’s just go along with the story and let it go. Her employer by the way is MSNBC,  owned by NBCUniversal, one of the largest media companies in the world.  Rachel Maddow is a fraud and a tool for the elite.

2) Bill Maher.

It’s difficult for me to watch this guy for more than a minute or two. I don’t know what bothers me the most: His nasally Jewish voice, his unrelenting sarcasm, his “I’m smarter than you” smirk, or his lack of any defining ideology. He uses his show, “Real Time with Bill Maher” to invite on his celebrity  buddies and shoot the shit about politics and religion. He pokes fun at religion, but George Carlin did that much better and long before Maher.

Considering that he has a large platform from which to speak and reach a large audience, and considering that he’s based in New York, and considering that he claims to be highly informed about politics, some folks asked him why  he didn’t bring up the issue of 9/11 and the flimsy government story. And what about Building 7, ?  Well, Bill wasn’t having any of that ‘conspiracy‘  talk and once again fell into lock- step with the other gatekeepers, bringing out the tried and true insults like ‘conspiracy nuts’ , ‘wackos’,  and so on. Bill Maher has never stood for anything, and his job is to be  controlled opposition, a harmless release valve for the ever suffering masses.

3) Alexander Cockburn.


The late writer for The Nation magazine, who wrote the popular column ‘Beat the Devil’ , was a talented political writer, fierce critic of the Bush presidency and American imperialism.  He was also  a shameless gatekeeper and peddler of absurdities such as the Oswald ‘lone nut’ assassination theory, sold to the American public by the Warren Commission (with of course the full and willing complicity of the national news media)   When I read his pathetic attempt at a refutation of the 9/11 truth movement, I was shocked that a man who could, and did, write eloquently and persuasively on many political subjects, would stoop to such sloppy, nonsensical and vitriolic arguments.  He viciously attacked and mocked anyone who was investigating 9/11 as kooks, not real writers and journalists, like he was. Those crazy folks just see a conspiracy under every rock. Why bother with them?  Cockburn was another controlled opposition fraud, meant to keep the Left docile, uninformed, and helpless.


4) Jonathan Stuart Leibowitz.

Another good Jewish boy , working for the ‘Man.’ Oh, Jon Stewart, how many have you deceived with your quick wit, goofy smile, and acerbic intellect?  Quite a few, I see. Your adoring fans tune in every night to watch you mock  the idiot bureaucrats, political buffoons, and corporate hucksters with your talented team of writers.


There’s something strange going on here, though. What’s up with the guests? Why does Jon bring on so many of the very people that he professes to despise for friendly chats? Ostensibly, he invites them on his show to grill them with hard questions, something he says the MSM never does.

But what these little ‘interviews’ and chats really do is give these monsters a human face, and in the end it’s all just theatre- warm smiles all around, a lot of hand shaking and back slapping and you get the impression that after the show when the cameras are off, they all pile in the limo together to go out to have  drinks and watch strippers.

Need I say that Jonathan Leibowitz, (oh, sorry, ‘Jon Stewart’) disses the 9/11 truth movement? Oh yes. Don’t look there, there is nothing to see. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. Yes Jon,  you can hold up your sign saying “9/11 was an outside job” and your brain- dead sycophantic audience will giggle and laugh stupidly, but not all of us are fooled, Jon. And we’re not laughing. You think we don’t know that Comedy Central is owned by MTV Networks Entertainment Group, which is owned by Viacom, one of the ‘big six’ media conglomerates which control 90% of the media in the U.S.?  Those are some serious people signing your paycheck, Jon. We’re talking BIG business. You’re in bed with the devil.  According to recent media reports, you make 30 million USD a year to host The Daily Show. I’m sure that’s enough to make you toe the line, eh Jon? You actually get your audience to believe that you’re just like them, one of the 99%. Nice one! And let’s not forget that his brother is the CEO of the New York Stock Exchange. The family seems to be good at making money.

5) Terence McKenna

Philosopher, ethnobotanist, lecturer, and author, Terence Mckenna (1946-2000) was an underground legend for years in the late 1980s and early 1990s in the psychedelic and rave community before he broke (somewhat) into the mainstream with a number of books published by HarperCollins and Bantam. Those books included The Archaic Revival, True Hallucinations, Food of the Gods, and The Invisible Landscape. 

I read all of his books in the 1990s with fascination. His theories about psychedelic plants, psilocybin mushrooms, the evolution of language, the ‘return to the archaic’, ufos, elves, rave culture, the IChing,  and the year 2012 were fascinating.  None of his theories could be proven, not even remotely, yet they were fun to contemplate.

In 1998, a friend gave me a series of audio tapes of his lectures, some 10 hours of talks at informal seminars. I listened to them many times over the next year and became increasingly uncomfortable with what he was saying to his audience.


The ‘lecturer’ McKenna was different from the ‘author’ McKenna. When he spoke, he drew in his audience not only with the captivating nature of the material, but also with his charm, quirky humor, and unique ability to turn a phrase.

There’s an advantage to listening to talks on tape. You can focus on the words and the message, and not be sidetracked with the speaker’s visual appearance, or how the audience around you is reacting. One thing I immediately noticed was how adoring and unquestioning McKenna’s audiences were. There was little to no real give and take, and they were just mesmerized by his seeming vast knowledge of all subjects. More worrisome though, was McKenna’s breezy and offhand dismissal of spiritual disciplines like yoga and meditation. For ‘real’ knowledge, he claimed you must ingest the plants. He once referred to the entire Indian subcontinent as ‘one giant scam.’

Furthermore, he often liked to say, in questions regarding global conspiracies, that in reality, “Nobody is in charge.” The world is too big, too complex and too slippery for any group or cabal to ever get ahold of. He implicitly and explicitly encouraged his fans to not bother searching into conspiracies.

For all his verbal wizardry and ethnobotanic knowledge, most of McKenna’s message just led his followers in circles. Now, years after his death, a recording has surfaced from a talk at Esalen Institute where he admits to working as a CIA agent for years after he was busted for smuggling hashish. Suddenly, much of his writing and lectures take on a new light.



Monsanto moves into Viet Nam; disaster looms for the country’s farmers

Monsanto, with the aggressive backing of the U.S. embassy and State Department,  has been busy lobbying  the Vietnamese government to introduce its GMO crops into the country.  Events are moving along at a good pace for Monsanto who, along with Syngenta and DuPont,  has  been pushing their ‘frankenseeds’ into developing countries for years.  Monsanto tested its first seeds here in 2011.

Eight years ago, the government in Viet Nam issued a blueprint regarding agriculture which envisioned having 30-50% of the country’s arable land planted with GMO crops by 2020. With such a momentous change on the horizon for  Viet Nam, its farmers, its land, its food and its people, you might think that there is a robust debate going on within the media, the government agencies responsible for coordinating food policy and in the general populace. You would be wrong. In fact, almost no one in Viet Nam is even familiar with the term ‘GMO’, let alone aware that there is a global debate raging over the harmful effects of these seeds on human health, the environment, animals, and plants. In my random sampling of locals here in Ho Chi Minh City, I did not encounter a single person who could tell me what a GMO is.



This is dangerous, and potentially catastrophic for the country. Decisions about the introduction and widespread implementation of GMO crops are being made by a tiny handful of government officials, who have been engaged in many closed-door meetings with executives from Monsanto, Syngenta and DuPont. Furthermore, with the current government wanting to maintain warm relations with the Obama regime, it behooves them to be friendly with some of Obama’s biggest supporters.

The government has done absolutely nothing to inform the population of what GMO seeds are and the science surrounding them. So, it is left up to the local media to bring some awareness to the issue. In that regard, a local paper, Thanhniennews has run some admirably hard-hitting pieces in the last few months, finally calling the government to task on this. The local English language paper, Viet Nam News has done a pathetic and criminally negligent job of covering this story, only running pieces that blithely quote government mouthpieces who work for the ministry of natural resources and the environment and the ministry of agriculture and rural development. We have people like Le Dinh Luong, professor of genetics at Hanoi University, who gleefully trumpets the benefits of GMOs and says that activists shouldn’t ‘make a fuss’ over the hazards of these scientific monstrosities.  Another scientific stooge, Professor Nguyen Lan Dung warned Viet Nam was ‘too cautious’ in planting GMOs on a wide scale. I guess he’s never heard of the cautionary principle.



The fact that GMOs are being embraced so enthusiastically by the government and upper scientific establishment here is not too surprising given the overall direction that they hope to push agriculture in. Since I arrived here, I have been collecting articles on food and agriculture printed in the local media, and looked thru them while preparing to write this piece. In every one, the government talks only of improving agriculture with ‘modern technology’,  ‘hi-tech agriculture’, ‘bio-technology’ , and ‘applying advanced technology to agriculture products.’ More machines. More chemicals. More fertilizers. More technology. The direction is clear, and in this context, it is natural   that they would jump on the GMO bandwagon, even without the arm twisting of  Monsanto and the U.S. State Department.

Viet Nam sits at a crucial juncture.  GMO corn is set to be planted in seven provinces in the North, Central Highlands, and South. If these crops are allowed to be planted in the next couple of years, there really will be no turning back. Neighboring fields will quickly become contaminated. It is much more difficult to rip them out of the ground and try to go back to organic crops than it is to halt this whole process at the beginning. However, there is little chance of a grass-roots movement getting started in time, given how ignorant and uniformed the population is.


The impoverished and uneducated farmers who have been subsistence farming for hundreds of generations will be easy targets, as company PR flaks, accompanied by agricultural officials from the government, will entice them with golden promises of higher yields, less work, less pests and crucially- more money.

Instead of working toward truly sustainable models , such as permaculture- based systems, which rely on building up the health of the soil, crop rotation, and the implementation of polyculture systems to make the land resilient to pests, the government is heading in the wrong direction:  to a high-tech , machinery dependent, high external input- based agriculture system geared toward the export market and not toward a reliable food supply for the Vietnamese people.



Most of the population is not even aware that Monsanto was the biggest producer of Agent Orange, used to such devastating effect during the war in the 1960s. When they are made aware of that connection, most of them realize that they don’t really want a chemical weapons manufacturer to be responsible for providing their rice.

Apparently, a GMO labeling law was enacted some years ago, but like many laws here, it is not enforced in any way, and therefore useless. A ‘Non-GMO’ label has yet to make an appearance on a store shelf in Ha Noi or Ho Chi Minh City.

As global elitists such as Henry Kissinger have long said, “Food is a weapon.” And that weapon is set to be unleashed on Viet Nam.



The Fast Food Invasion of Viet Nam

The food landscape of Viet Nam, especially in the large cities, is changing rapidly. In fact, it is being altered almost overnight, thanks to the rapid and loosely regulated introduction of American-based fast food chains.

Three weeks ago, McDonald’s opened its first franchise here, on a busy street in downtown Ho Chi Minh City. People queued up for blocks and waited hours to get in, anxious to finally try some of that American fast food which the rest of the world appears to be so crazy about.

Last year, Starbucks opened its first outlet in Viet Nam, sensing big opportunities here with a deeply ingrained coffee culture, a young, Western-oriented population, and a well-established coffee shop scene. Within a few months of the first outlet opening, three more had sprouted up in nearby neighborhoods and more are on the way.



KFC and Pizza Hut  (Yum! brands) have been here since 1997. Burger King arrived in  2011. Dairy Queen just opened its first franchise in Ho Chi Minh City. Baskin Robbins jumped in during 2012.  Dominos Pizza opened its first franchise in 2010.

Even before these companies arrived, Viet Nam had seen an alarming rise in obesity, especially in children living in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam’s largest cities. A number of factors, including rising incomes, increasingly sedentary lifestyles caused by the rise in popularity of computer games, the increasing availability of sugar laden soft drinks and a rapid increase in meat consumption have contributed. With the onslaught of the Western fast food chains, this trend will vastly accelerate.  It’s quite common now to see obese young children in the streets of Ho Chi Minh City, especially in the wealthier districts, such as District 1 and District 7. According to a study published last September, ,Viet Nam already has 300,000 children classified as obese under the age of 5.

And it’s not just obesity. The number of cases of diagnosed type 2 diabetes is also skyrocketing, as is heart disease and hypertension. Nationally, the percentage of people with diabetes has climbed from 1% to 6% and in Ho Chi Minh City, 10% of adults have the disease. Given the large problems Viet Nam already has with one of the highest rates of smoking in the world (4 billion packs consumed  in 2013) and an increasing thirst for beer, the public health situation is set to deteriorate rapidly.

While the government has made some pronouncements recently regarding increasing taxes on cigarettes and putting stronger warning labels on packs, its blithely indifferent attitude toward Western fast food is curious, to say the least. Locals sigh cynically and point out that McDonald’s entered Viet Nam thru a partnership with Good Day Hospitality, which is owned by Henry Nguyen, son-in-law of the prime minister.

A Reuters article dated February 3, 2014 (and not picked up by any of the Vietnamese press)  states: Governments could slow or even reverse the growing obesity epidemic if they introduced more regulation into the global market for fast foods such as burgers, chips, and fizzy drinks, researchers said yesterday.

The article continues, “Unless governments take steps to regulate their economies, the invisible hand of the market will continue to promote obesity worldwide with disastrous consequences  for future public health and economic productivity,” said Roberto De Vogli of the Uinversity of California, Davis, in the U.S., who led the study.